The Michigan Traffic Crash Facts Sheet reports that traffic fatalities in the state have increased nearly 15%, from 985 in 2019 to 1,131 car accident-related deaths in 2021. Out of the total number, there were 336 alcohol-involved and 259 drug-related fatal crashes. Speeding contributed 237, while distracted driving accounted for 59 deadly collisions.
Overall, however, car accidents in the state have decreased. Michigan State Police recorded 282,640 car accidents on Michigan's roads in 2021, with the total car crashes dropping 10% from 314,377 in 2019. The decrease is seen as a result of Michigan’s firm implementation of several measures to improve road safety, including better infrastructure, stricter laws for impaired and distracted driving and speeding, and heightened implementation of the seat belt law.
Michigan car accident victims and their families have the legal right to seek compensation for damages and losses. Michigan's car accident laws can be complex, and navigating the legal system can be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with the claims process. It is essential to understand Michigan's car accident laws, including the comparative negligence law, no-fault insurance system, and statute of limitations.
Michigan Impaired Driving Law
With 31.5% of fatal crashes in Michigan being alcohol-involved, the state’s impaired driving law prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any combination of both. Drivers intoxicated with Schedule 1 controlled substances and/or cocaine will receive the same fines and penalties as drunk drivers, even if there are no visible signs of impairment. However, an individual with a valid medical marijuana card may be exempted if found driving with marijuana in their system.
Michigan has a zero-tolerance policy for individuals under 21 who drive under the influence of alcohol. Drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher are considered intoxicated and can be charged with a DUI. The state also has a high-BAC law with enhanced penalties for people caught driving “super drunk,” which means having a BAC of 0.17 or above.
DUI, OWI, OWPD, and OWVI are all related to drunk or impaired driving offenses in Michigan. DUI, which stands for “Driving Under the Influence,” is a term commonly used in other states but not in Michigan. Instead, Michigan uses the terms OWI, OWPD, and OWVI to describe drunk/drugged driving offenses.
OWI, which stands for “Operating While Intoxicated,” is the most common drunk driving offense in Michigan. A person can be charged with OWI if they operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher or if they are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and are unable to operate a vehicle safely. OWPD, or Operating With the Presence of Drugs, is a lesser charge than OWI. A person can be charged with OWPD if they are found to be operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs. OWVI, which stands for “Operating While Visibly Impaired,” is also a lesser charge than OWI. A person can be charged with OWVI if they are found to be operating a motor vehicle while visibly impaired by drugs or alcohol, even if their BAC is below .08%.
The penalties for a first-time impaired driving conviction can include up to 93 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, driver's license suspension for up to 180 days, community service of up to 360 hours, mandatory completion of an alcohol treatment program, and the installation of an ignition interlock device on the driver's vehicle. The penalties for subsequent OWI convictions in Michigan are more severe.
Law enforcement officers across the state can use various methods to determine if a driver is under the influence, including field sobriety, breathalyzer, and blood tests. Refusing to submit to a breath test the first time can result in an automatic driver's license suspension for up to one year. Additionally, a second refusal within seven years leads to a two-year suspension.
Michigan Speeding Law
With speeding as one of the leading causes of traffic crashes in the state, Michigan has set speed limits on most roads and highways and in certain areas such as school zones, construction zones, and residential areas. Drivers are required to follow the posted speed limit signs. The maximum speed on Michigan freeways is 70 mph, while it is 65 mph in most urban areas. Public parks, business districts, and some highway segments have a 25 mph limit.
If a driver is caught exceeding the speed limit, the violation may be deemed a civil infraction. The fine depends on the speed at which the driver was traveling and the location of the offense. Additionally, the driver may receive points on their license, which can lead to higher insurance rates and potentially even a license suspension.
Excessive speeding can also lead to criminal charges. If a driver is caught traveling at more than 25 mph over the speed limit or at a speed greater than 80 mph, they can be charged with reckless driving, a misdemeanor offense. Reckless driving carries harsher penalties than a simple speeding ticket, including imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not more than $7,500.00.
Michigan Distracted Driving Law
Michigan law prohibits texting while driving. Drivers are warned of three types of distractions: manual, visual, and cognitive. Visual means taking a person's eyes off the road, manual is taking one's hands off the wheel, and cognitive means taking a person’s mind off the task of driving.
Texting while driving falls under the three types of distractions, making it the most alarming. Michigan's distracted driving law prohibits drivers from using a handheld mobile device while operating a motor vehicle on a public road. It also prohibits drivers under 18 from using any type of mobile device while driving, whether handheld or hands-free.
Michigan's distracted driving law is a primary enforcement law, and police officers can pull over and ticket drivers solely for violating the distracted driving law without any other violations. The fine for breaking the law can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the level of violation, but it usually ranges from $100 to $250.
While the law mainly targets the use of mobile devices while driving, other distracting activities include grooming, chatting with passengers, eating or drinking, and searching or reaching for an item.
Buckle Up Michigan! Michigan’s Seat Belt Law
The Buckle Up Michigan! Seat Belt Law set forth by MCL 257.710e is a primary enforcement law that allows law enforcement officers to stop and ticket drivers solely for not wearing a seat belt. Drivers and front-seat passengers must be buckled, and passengers aged 8 to 15 must wear a seat belt or be secured in a child safety seat at all times and in all seating positions.
Michigan also has a Child Passenger Safety Law, where children are required to be properly buckled in a car seat or booster seat until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall, or 8 years old, whichever comes first. Parents can be fined around $120 for child safety seat violations, but it varies based on the jurisdiction.
It is illegal to improperly wear a seat belt, like putting the strap below the arm or behind the back. Shoulder belts should fit snugly over the shoulders, and the lap belt should be low on the hips. The fines for the law vary by area, but they usually range from $65 to $100.
The law applies to all passenger vehicles, including cars, vans, and trucks. The only exemptions to this law are for certain medical conditions or disabilities that prevent the use of seat belts or when the vehicle is being used in a parade or funeral procession.
The Michigan Seat Belt Law is designed to promote safety and reduce the risk of injury or death in the event of a car accident.
Michigan Hit-and-Run Accident Law
The Michigan Hit-and-Run Law, stated by MCL 257.618, requires drivers to stop and exchange information with other drivers involved in an accident. Leaving the scene of an accident or failing to exchange information is a serious crime, and the penalties can vary depending on the severity of the accident.
A driver involved in a Michigan car crash is required by law to stop immediately at the scene of the accident or as close as possible without obstructing traffic more than necessary. The driver must then give their name, address, vehicle registration number, and driver's license to the other driver or a police officer at the scene. If requested, the driver must also show their driver's license to the other driver or police officer.
If a driver fails to stop at the scene of an accident, they can face severe criminal penalties, including fines of up to $10,000, up to 15 years imprisonment, and revocation of their driver's license. If the accident causes injury or death, the penalties are even more severe.
Michigan Auto Insurance Requirements
Michigan drivers must have auto insurance, and it is important to understand the requirements to stay compliant with the law.
The required vehicle insurance coverage in Michigan is $50,000/$100,000/$10,000. Limitations for bodily injury in the case of a covered accident are $50,000 per person, up to a total of $100,000 per occurrence, and $10,000 in coverage for damage to another party's property. Michigan requires four types of auto insurance coverage, including:
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
This policy offers what is referred to as “No-Fault PIP Benefits” to injured parties who are critically hurt in an auto accident. It covers medical costs, a portion of lost income, in-home nursing services, and replacement services for household duties.
Property Protection Insurance (PPI)
This policy covers damages for tangible property other than the vehicles involved in the accident, like parked cars, buildings, fences, lawns, or trees within the state. There is a mandatory $1,000,000 PPI coverage for Michigan auto policies.
Residual Bodily Injury Liability (BI)
This policy protects parties who have caused a car accident that resulted in serious injuries to another person. The minimum bodily injury liability coverage required by law is $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident. However, drivers may opt to obtain lesser amounts of $50,000 and $100,000.
Property Damage (PD)
A $10,000 minimum PD is required to cover damages to another person’s vehicle outside Michigan.
Michigan’s New Insurance Laws
Michigan is known for having some of the country's highest auto insurance rates, partly due to the state's unique auto insurance laws. To make insurance coverage accessible to more people across the state, new provisions of Michigan’s auto insurance laws took effect in July 2020. Under this revised law, policyholders may opt not to continue their “unlimited for all” PIP medical coverage, giving drivers the freedom to choose a full range of medical coverage when they purchase or renew their insurance. On the other hand, unlimited PIP coverage remains an option under this new law.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Car Accident in Michigan?
Michigan law does not impose any monetary limit on how much an injured driver can sue an at-fault driver following a car accident in terms of compensation for medical expenses, wage loss, and pain and suffering. The victim’s recovery may be based on the liability coverage of the negligent party, and the most a victim can sue for under the mini-tort is $3,000. Michigan’s new auto law requires drivers to carry bodily injury liability insurance, or third-party insurance, with limits of $250,000 and $500,000. However, the law permits drivers to choose dramatically lower bodily injury insurance limits of $50,000 and $100,000.
The Statute of Limitations in Michigan
The Michigan personal injury statute of limitations is defined by Michigan Compiled Laws Section 600.5805. This section states that the period of limitations for bringing or maintaining an action to recover damages for personal injury is three years after the time of injury or death unless it is covered by an exemption provided in the statute.
Injured victims normally have three years from the date of the incident to initiate a lawsuit against the at-fault motorist if injuries are sustained in an automobile accident. This deadline is relevant to both wrongful death and personal injury claims. This law does have some exceptions, such as when the victim is a minor or has a mental disability. Unless one of these exclusions occurs, it is advised to assume the three-year time restriction for filing an automobile accident claim.
Depending on the terms of insurance contracts, the statute of limitations for uninsured and underinsured driver claims may change. It is advisable to have an experienced attorney analyze insurance policies to ensure victims don't lose out on any advantages.
Is Michigan a No-fault State?
Michigan is a no-fault insurance state and a tort threshold state, meaning a driver’s insurance coverage pays for damages incurred in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Since a car insurance policy is mandatory across the state, all car owners must purchase at least basic coverage in order to be allowed to drive.
Michigan Comparative Negligence Law
Michigan applies a comparative negligence law, also called “comparative fault,” for parties in a car accident to recover damages based on their percentage of fault. It applies to all parties involved, including the plaintiff.
This law determines the allocation of damages between parties in a lawsuit arising from a car accident. Each party is assigned a percentage of fault based on their actions leading up to the crash. The percentage is then used to calculate each party's damages.
Additionally, Michigan has a modified comparative negligence system, where plaintiffs may recover damages if their percentage of fault is less than or equal to 50%. If they are found to be 51% or more at fault for the accident, they are prohibited from obtaining damages from the other party. If found to be less than 50% at fault, their award will be reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, parties found 75% at fault for a car crash would not receive compensation for pain and suffering because they are over 50% at fault. However, they are still entitled to 25% of economic loss compensation.
Michigan’s comparative negligence rule is designed to ensure that each party is held responsible for their share of the damages based on their level of fault. This helps allocate the damages between parties fairly and promotes accountability and responsibility in car accident cases.
Legal Resources for Michigan Car Accident Victims
It is a valuable resource for Michigan residents seeking information on auto insurance in the state, operated by the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services. It provides comprehensive resources on car insurance laws, requirements, and regulations. The site also includes information on the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, which offers unlimited medical benefits to individuals injured in auto accidents. Its toll-free number in Michigan is 877-999-6442.
This serves as a resource center for free civil legal assistance by the State Bar of Michigan or organizations delivering direct services to low-income individuals. It provides information on finding a pro bono attorney in Michigan and applying for legal aid services. The website also contains resources for lawyers who want to volunteer their time and services to help individuals in need of legal assistance. Reach the office through its contact number: 517-346-6300.
This is an online database for statewide traffic crash data maintained by the Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Reporting Unit. All law enforcement agencies are required to submit qualifying crash reports (UD-10) to the MSP. It outlines the requirements for reporting a traffic accident and the information that must be included in the accident report.
The Michigan Department of Transportation's Traffic Crash Purchasing System is a web-based application that allows authorized users to purchase and access traffic crash reports from the state of Michigan.
Phone Number: (517) 241-1699
This serves as a comprehensive guide to the motor vehicle insurance requirements set forth by the state of Michigan and its Department of Insurance and Financial Services. It includes details on insurance eligibility, optional coverages, annual premiums, and sample declarations. It is a downloadable resource to use as a reference for rights and obligations under Michigan's auto insurance laws.
This is a manual the Michigan Secretary of State provided to help drivers improve and expand their knowledge of state traffic laws and safe driving practices. It includes a resource guide for printed materials, websites, and customer service numbers for more driving information.
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